Last week I took an express train off the reservation, and landed in Coney Island. It only takes about an hour from downtown Manhattan.
Coney Island’s main foreshore area
Located on the far eastern tip of Brooklyn, naturally Coney Island is not actually an island but a peninsular, although many lifetimes ago (up until the late 30’s) it was semi-separated from the mainland by a tidal flats creek.
For some fashion conscious New Yorkers, black is always chic
Today visiting the peninsular really is a trip down the rabbithole where you land in hotdog heaven/hell – otherwise known as Nathan’s, famous both as a hotdog brand in America and the home of the world* hotdog eating championships. The ninety-fourth(!) annual contest was held on July 4 last year. Six-time champion Takeru “Tsunami” Kobayashi from Japan was back to battle two-time defending California-based champ Joey Chestnut; Chestnut prevailed with a new world record of 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Kobayashi was close with 64½.
(*In the same sense that America’s baseball league is a ‘world’ championship)
“Welcome to our office”
Needless to say, the native population of this exotic locale are a free-spirited, somewhat disheveled, eccentric bunch who perfectly match their surrounds. Walking down the main boardwalk, all the concession stands look like they’ve been untouched since Eisenhower was president; it’s a visual swansong of warm, faded charms.
Coney Island’s natives are largely comprised of retirees, African Americans and whites in similar numbers, with a substantial Russian immigrant population, and Latinos. The median household income last decade was $21,281. This makes it a kind of fabulous Atlantic ghetto with a magnificent white sand beach where its latitude and longitude mean it gets the sun all day long, the people are friendly, and you can drink beer on the boardwalk on a weekday morning. And there’s the New York Aquarium too.
A 50’s fairground by the sea, complete with fresh lemonade, funnel cake, & 6 piece chicken in the basket
It really is fun for the whole family too, in a vaguely acid trippy, digestive-system-abusing sort of way. While the dominant culinary theme is of the if-it-moves-deep-fry-it aesthetic, there are even fresh salads and tacos for the
girlfriends, moms and more fashion conscious more health aware.
“Live entertainment for the hole (sic) family”
We went on a balmy spring weekday, before the amusement parks open at the official beginning of summer/June, and before the crowds have turned the boardwalk and beach into a human dodgems game, so many of the attractions were not yet open or at full capacity. We were also reassured by locals that it’s not nearly as fun a locale in the bitter cold of a winter lashed by Atlantic storms.
Lola Star’s Dream Land Roller Rink
However, one of the cooler looking buildings I’ve seen in all of New York so far was the dilapidated grandeur reeking from this old skating rink overlooking the sea. I’m looking forward to exploring this, and more of the island’s doomed charms again soon, this summer, before (the inevitable-in-New-York) developers and gentrification shortly snatch this candy-colored time capsule away and turn it into another page of the city’s storied history.